“I don’t want my friends to turn away from me when I tell them who I am,” said 13-year-old Ardan, not his real name, on Saturday during a story-telling event at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) office in Central Jakarta.
The boy, from an Ahmadi family, then recounted an incident when his home in Manislor village in Kuningan regency, West Java, was ransacked by locals.
“I saw people throwing stones at our house,” he said. “I asked my mother ‘what have we done wrong’ and she was just silent,” said the boy, who bowed his head and sobbed.
Ardan and two other Ahmadi children came to the LBH Jakarta office to join other children whose families were from an ethnic or religious minority group such as Sunda Wiwitan, Shia and the Rohingya Muslims, to celebrate National Children’s Day over the weekend. Also joining them were children of members of the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) Filadelfia and the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) congregation.
EM, a child from GKI Yasmin, took the chance to read a letter, addressed to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in front of his new friends.
The 13-year-old boy’s words called on the President to reopen GKI Yasmin, which was sealed off by the Bogor City administration in 2011, he just wanted to celebrate Christmas this year in peace at the church.
“I want to be able to pray inside the church and not on the roadside like we have to now,” he said.
LBH Jakarta said that the event was part of an effort to heal their trauma from constant discrimination.
LBH Jakarta director Febi Yonesta said that discrimination could impact negatively on their mental and psychological condition.
“In areas of conflict, children are often on the receiving end of human rights abuse because they are the most vulnerable,” Febi told The Jakarta Post.
Febi said that children who were most effected included dozens of Ahmadi kids in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, where they lived transient lives because of the beliefs of their families.
More often than not, Ahmadi children drop out of schools because of the constant attacks from locals.
Activists have also raised concern over the future education of displaced children relocated because of religious clashes.
Ilma Sovri Yanti, the coordinator of a government-sanctioned Task Force on Child Protection, cited a case in Sidoarjo, East Surabaya, where 235 Shiites were moved to public housing in Puspa Argo Village in Sidoarjo, East Java.
“Fifty percent of the 80 Shia children who are with their parents in Sidoarjo don’t go to school. This is their future at stake,” she said.
Ilma said that the Shiite children, who went to school in their home villages in Nangkernang and Blu’uran in Sampang, had not been to school since August 2012, following a clash between Sunni and Shiite communities in Madura.
Many Shia children who joined a free schooling program at a displaced persons center said they had experienced trauma, stress and depression.
Activist Nia Syarifudin from the National Alliance of Unity in Diversity (ANBTI) said the government needed to step up its efforts to protect minority groups, especially children.